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Feels Like Groundhog Day. Again.

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I don’t know about you, but I am having a Groundhog Day kind of feeling. Our family watched the movie again over winter break. A winter break where we canceled almost as many plans as we made.

We had hoped to go to Spain but then decided we didn’t want to risk travel bans, so we planned an exciting trip to…New York City. COVID numbers were low and we haven’t been there in way too long.

As the date grew closer, even our family and friends in New York who really wanted to see us suggested that it might be better to wait. In the end, we went to nearby Morton Arboretum and walked among the winter trees and epic sculptures, appreciating the squirrels. We went to the library and stocked up on graphic novels and DVDs. We hiked in the forest preserve. We played Catan and Risk. And we watched a LOT of movies. Including some classics. Like His Girl Friday, which we all enjoyed. And of course, Groundhog Day.

Do you remember the movie? Sometimes, I feel like I am stepping off the curb into icy slush, again and again. If your family hasn’t seen Groundhog Day, add it to your “Omicron/Staying Home Again” movie queue…

Seriously, whether you are staying home AGAIN, or you never stopped, this is starting to feel like a big chunk of our lives and our kids’ lives. If you are having a lot of feelings about that, I’m right here with you.

We’ve been to one in-person Bar Mitzvah during this pandemic and I almost cried watching the (masked, of course) kids doing the limbo and dancing to the live Klezmer band. It felt so right and so sweet. Shortly after that, all the upcoming planned B-Mitzvah celebrations moved back to zoom. The kids are resilient. A zoom B-Mitzvah can be a beautiful thing. But I still feel sad and disappointed for these families that planned so much, for the young people who have worked so hard, and for all of these kids sitting through week after week of two-hour zooms instead of joyful, in-person celebrations. This is really, really hard.

So, I’m sharing a couple of resources that I hope can help a little, as well as my solidarity. You are not alone.

Support for Getting Through This Time

My friend Phyllis Fagell has some great tips for 5 ways adults can boost kids’ well-being — and their own— as schools return from break in a Covid surge this week. I love that she reminds us that self-care is NOT selfish, it actually helps us to be better parents and educators.

She also reminds us “Don’t be afraid to cope out loud. Let your child hear you stay hopeful even if the first thing you try is ineffective.”

Feeling like you can’t stop scrolling the news right now? Having a hard time watching other people’s vacations after canceling your own (that was me.) I spoke with the Wall Street Journal about how to unhook from your phone, especially if you are doomscrolling or if social media is taking you away from things you really want to do. Like engaging with your family. Or reading a good book.

Can’t get to WSJ because of the paywall? I’ve summarized my advice on Instagram. My favorite tip is silencing ALL the bings and tings. I really don’t need a jarring ping to let me know the moment a text comes in.

And if you are back in remote school like we are, here are my remote school survival tips in case you took them off your fridge.

Favorite tip: Post a handy cheat sheet of all the logins and passwords by the student’s work station and in the photos on parents’ phones.

What else is helping us get through this time? Nature. I am teaching myself to cross country ski. Since I learned from Youtube, I’m not that good. Yet. But it is OK. When I was interviewing kids and teens for Screenwise, kids told me that they learn a lot of new skills from Youtube. Giving it a try as a middle-aged learner has been an adventure.

Art is also getting me through. Our very own art. Even though we moved this summer, we hadn’t gotten around to hanging our art yet. We have a LOT of art and it was all sitting in boxes. Hanging the art made space for a remote school “office” for our 7th grader, AND it brought our old friends back into our lives. We spent the last two weeks framing and arranging old and new artwork and it feels so good to see our favorite pieces on the walls again. This street art bird (below the PS) went up in my office and is keeping an eye on me as I write my new book on Growing Up in Public.

Finally, our gratitude is helping. It can be hard to tune into that channel right now. But today I drove my kid to school in 10 degree weather. Volunteers and staff were waiting outside to administer drive-through COVID tests to see if our district can return to in-person learning. These folks are outside in the frigid wind from 7am to 3pm today, trying to make it safer for the kids to go back to school. We could not thank them enough.

I hope you and your family are staying safe, even with the curveball of this latest wave of the pandemic.

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Transitions are Hard: Moving is Hell Edition

 

We moved this week. We’re settling into a new house after five years in our beloved apartment. My 12-year-old is not too thrilled about uprooting from a neighborhood and town he really loves.

And then on moving day, something really scary happened. We put our beloved cat in the kitchen and told the movers not to open it. Unfortunately, that communication didn’t work as planned.  Someone did open the door.

We came in with her carrier to move her to the new house and she was gone. All the doors to the building were propped wide open. Katara is NOT an outdoor cat and had never been outside. I was terrified.

My son was at camp and I could not imagine telling him that in addition to moving him away from his happy home, his beloved cat was nowhere to be found.

Friends rallied around us by making signs and walking around the neighborhood calling for her. A group of little kids that we didn’t even know walked the neighborhood looking for her. A teen from across the street got on his bike to search. We were scared, but so grateful for all the support and community.

I couldn’t stop thinking about 4pm, when I was supposed to pick up my son. How could I tell him that we let our cat escape? Could we buy some time and send him to a friend’s house, and just tell him the move was taking longer than we expected? After all, due to my complete freakout and subsequent inability to coherently instruct the moving crew, the move WAS taking way more time than expected.

Thank goodness we realized we shouldn’t lie to our tween about this. We realized it would be unforgivable to keep something so important from him.

So, my husband and I told him what we believed: that we hoped once the commotion of the moving ended, she would return. We promised that we’d all camp out in our old apartment in sleeping bags surrounded by cat food, with the door open, waiting for her.

Our son took in the news stoically and then said he had an idea he wanted to check. He walked into our empty apartment, which had been thoroughly searched by our moving crew, both adults in our family, and several friends and…found our cat, hiding on the top shelf of the linen closet, way in the back.

Had we lied to him, we would not have found her.

What did I learn from this scary experience
(other than don’t just tell a crew of movers “don’t go into that room.”)

  • Telling the truth is usually the right choice.
  • Our friends and neighbors, including total strangers are kind and amazing. We knew this, but it was a powerful reminder.
  • Kids and their pets have a powerful connection.
  • Moving is hell.

This experience reminded me that transitions are hard. When you are a cat, having big, strong people move all the furniture around you is terrifying, like someone taking apart your whole world.

That is a relatable feeling for a lot of us right now. Big pieces of our world, our jobs and our surroundings are in profound transitions. Many of these changes are out of our control.

Be kind to yourself as you muddle through this transition. Take breaks. Hide out in a cozy corner where you feel safe, then venture out to try things.

Wishing you well through all your transitions, even if it is “just” the transition to a summer schedule, are stressful. Especially on top of what we’ve all been through these last 16 months…

I’ll be over here unpacking. And petting the cat.

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remote school

Secondhand Stress for Parents from Remote School? It is a thing.

Is remote school stressing you out?

Several stressed out parents and really smart experts were kind enough to speak with me for this story in the Washington Post.

“We’re a fly on the wall in a room we were never meant to be in,” said Robyn Silverman,  host of the How to Talk to Kids About Anything Podcast.

remote school

When parents overhear a teacher calling on their child when they are unprepared, or when we overhear a not-nice interaction with a classmate, “you can’t help but put yourself right back there” to your own school experience, said Silverman, who has a son and daughter  who are learning at home.

“As much as possible we need to separate our kid’s experience from our own,” says Tina Payne Bryson, a psychotherapist and co-author of  Whole Brain Child. If your heart races when you see emails from their teacher, you can try to center yourself and separate your experience from your child’s, says Bryson.

But parents need to be aware when their own school experiences can affect how they react to their children’s.

Psychologist Regine Galanti reminds us to remember that remote school is putting an “impossible burden” on parents and that self-compassion is needed.

Read the rest here, including some tips on how to deal with all the email and texts and other communication coming from school.

Need some help with pandemic parenting and screens?

I am offering limited numbers of one hour coaching sessions for parents navigating remote school, pandemic screen time and more. Happy email chat with you to see if it is a fit.

Worried About Pandemic Screentime? How to host a virtual parent talk at your school

Supporting and mentoring kids in the digital age is a community effort. Planning an event at your school is a great way to bring people together to spark meaningful conversations, learn from one another, and better understand the particular issues and concerns facing our kids, parents, and educators when it comes to technology.

Read more